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Sales Strategy & Management

The Top 5 Ecommerce Trends You Should Look Out For

This year could be huge: Improving the customer experience is key.

Jan Verleur

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2015 is expected to be even better than 2014, with global sales growing 6.4 percent. To support that growth, we’ll see ecommerce companies focus on improving the overall customer experience and reducing friction wherever possible, to drive and support sales.

With this in mind, here are five key ecommerce trends that will dominate the year.

Related: Get Payments Right for the Final Step in E-commerce Success

1. Implementing more responsive design

Sixty-six percent of all time spent on ecommerce sites is done across mobile devices, and 61 percent of customers leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly.

This is no secret, but the rate of change in response is enormous. This rate of change explains why optimising the user experience for smartphones and tablets – not just smaller screens, but multiple devices with different screens – is more of a priority than ever before. Responsive design adoption is poised to grow rapidly.

Responsive design emphasises a streamlined user interface and viewing experience, with easy reading and navigation enabled (at a minimum) through resizing, panning, and scrolling.

Today, only 9 percent of the top ecommerce sites use responsive design, but attitudes are quickly shifting to align with customer behaviour. The benefits of responsive design include increased site traffic, improved customer satisfaction and higher conversion rates.

Site-flow is being simplified and optimised for all key platforms, including desktop and mobile. With no uniformity in device screen-size and multi-platform shopping more common than ever, many ecommerce brands will seek a responsive experience for their sites. (Candidly, my company is in the 91 percent of ecommerce sites that are not responsive, but we have made that goal our top priority for 2015.)

2. Bringing Apple Pay online

Apple launched its brick-and-mortar payment system last year, to much fanfare. Though Apple Pay is still strictly an in-store payment solution, there is speculation that it could become available to ecommerce merchants in the coming months.

Already, Apple has entered partnerships with online service providers such as Lyft, Uber and Airbnb, suggesting that the company’s long-term plan for the service involves more than just brick-and-mortar merchants.

If Apple Pay were to enter the ecommerce space at scale, it would be a true game changer. For ecommerce merchants, this means facilitating easier payments, reducing costs like credit card processing fees and taking advanage of the potential opportunity to team up with Apple for marketing promotions – a move most brands would see as an enormous benefit.

3. Combining Content + Commerce

This year, more ecommerce sites will couple content and commerce to create rich lifestyle-oriented destinations that keep shoppers coming back. Content will also double as a tool for SEO and branding.

Etsy does a great job at combining content and commerce by profiling artists and featuring DIY projects while using its social media platforms to promote all of it. In that capacity, Etsy has become more than simply an ecommerce site, but rather a web destination for a variety of audiences ranging from customers, and artists who may want to display their work, to visitors interested in the art/DIY lifestyle and culture.

Birchbox is another excellent example of an ecommerce site successfully creating high-quality content to generate repeat business. Its blog is packed with “how-to” guides and style tips that rival the scope of traditional lifestyle publications like Cosmo and GQ. There is also the option to buy any of the items featured in the post, whether they be dress shirts or watches. This is content and commerce working together to achieve the same objective.

Related: Secrets Of E-Commerce Success: How To Build A Great Catalogue

4. Focusing on video

According to Cisco, by 2017, video will account for 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic. As shoppers grow more responsive to visual presentation and seek responsive layouts, video will become a front-and-centre asset to convey product details – not just demos – and facilitate improved webrooming.

The shift toward video is already generating a high ROI for the advertising industry, especially among consumer packaged goods brands, many of which have seen significant increases in engagement and reach.

Video is a great way to deliver high-quality content, and it benefits ecommerce by leading to higher average orders and driving conversions. In 2015, the focus in particular will be on mobile video.

Last year alone, 25 percent of all ecommerce video plays came from mobile devices, up from 19 percent in 2013. As mobile becomes the dominant platform for online shopping, ecommerce retailers who have seen the benefit of video will focus more on leveraging it across multiple channels.

5. Mastering total remarketing

The proliferation of mobile has created an “always-on” customer. Retailers can now connect with shoppers wherever and whenever they are. And Facebook’s dominance across all platforms, especially mobile – the average smartphone user checks his or her Facebook account around 14 times a day – has made it possible to market to this huge audience on every device throughout the site.

As a result, the opportunity for online retailers to remarket to off-site targets has never been better. This is why 2015 will be the year retailers stop questioning Facebook’s ROI and fully embrace its power as a multi-channel marketing tool.

Facebook is already seeing this trend play out. Its sales jumped 50 percent in the final quarter of 2014, with mobile ads accounting for nearly 70 percent of total ad revenue. Two years ago, that number was just 23 percent.

Related: Entering the World of E-Commerce

Ultimately, this year’s ecommerce trends will be defined by the drive to constantly improve the customer experience. And by streamlining the path to purchase, online retailers will be in an even better position to take advantage of the category’s growth and drive real revenue gains above and beyond those of 2014.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Jan Verleur is CEO and co-founder of VMR Products, a leading manufacturer of electronic cigarettes.

Sales Strategy & Management

Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Learn to sell nearly anything.

Brian Tracy

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Entrepreneur Network partner Brian Tracy says one of the most valuable skills a person can have is the ability to sell anything to anyone.

The motivational speaker provides a few tips to help even the most beginner of salesman to improve their skills dramatically:

  1. Understand the needs of your customers.
  2. Sell yourself.
  3. Do research on the client.
  4. Ask questions and engage in a dialogue with your customers.

Finally, keep in mind that you should not only be selling – but also helping your customers. Selling is part of a relationship and the more established the relationship, the more effective your sales tactics will be.

To hear more about selling from Tracy click on the video below:

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

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Sales Strategy & Management

Boost Your Business With Smart Delivery

Differentiate your business in the one way that customers value the most: deliver the goods on time.

Morné Stoltz

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It can be difficult to carve out a competitive advantage in today’s cutthroat business environment. For some companies, investments have been focused on creating digital advantage through measures like apps or fancy websites, or improved processes with clever technology to make things run faster and better. While all those strategies have their place, there could be a far simpler way to put your business ahead of the competition. Deliver the goods, in a very literal sense.

The Internet revolution has made today’s markets very competitive in all sorts of ways. Barriers to entering many markets have tumbled and new competitors are everywhere. Consumers have greater choice than ever and can easily compare prices and service. That is good for consumers, but it makes it hard for companies to attract and retain a loyal following.

By now, it should be no secret that people are willing to pay for convenience. In fact, many of the digital initiatives we see today are succeeding because of the convenience they provide. Take the Uber example: Using technology services, it brings together willing sellers with willing buyers, with the ultimate convenience of being able to see where your Uber is, who the driver is and what car to expect. Even more convenient, your Uber shows up when you need it.

Related: A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business

Extend the same concept to physical goods, no matter what they may be and it is not difficult to see how a delivery service can easily put a big smile on your customers’ faces. Whether you are selling horse saddles, operate a bicycle store, run the local grocer, hardware outlet or restaurant: bringing your goods to your customers saves them time, makes it easier to buy and has the added effect of establishing further rapport to build trusted relationships.

According to Forbes, the Internet has habituated today’s shoppers to instant gratification. While physical goods obviously cannot be accessed at a click, there is no doubt that speedy delivery has become a driver of competitive advantage.

Getting a delivery service set up can be easy and low-cost provided your market is fairly local and your product relatively easy to transport. There are a range of options for vehicles, from a versatile bakkie or minivan capable of handling large loads or bigger items, through to a delivery motorbike or scooter. For those providing smaller items, scooters or motorbikes are a great option, as they enable convenience when your customers might most need it: during rush hour. A bike can zip through the traffic, impressing your customer by ensuring that they get what they need, without wasting time stuck in the car due to traffic or lack of parking.

A big question would be whether your deliveries are handled in-house or by a third party. There are pros and cons, but there is an increasing trend for many smaller businesses to make use of specialised logistics/ delivery operations. After all, this means you do not have to make the capital investment in a vehicle or scooter, pay a staff member to do the job and take on the insurance and management issues. Not only are you engaging an expert, you are also doing your bit to support another business.

Third-party delivery partners also work well for deliveries in far-flung areas, or if your product is bulky.

It is a good idea to see what other businesses of your size are doing and who they are using. It is important to choose a delivery partner whose service ethos matches your own.

Related: 5 Success Hacks To Grow Your Business

Whatever option you choose, make sure you understand the risk and have the right kind of business insurance in place. It is also a good idea to have the ability to monitor where your deliveries are in real time. If you have a third-party partner, they should  be able to provide this for you.

With most big stores offering delivery services as part of their value proposition, adding this choice to your service offering increasingly makes good business sense. Customers are quite prepared to pay a slight premium to get what they want, right to their front door – and they will keep on coming back for more.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

Ever think about why people keep buying iPhones, even though they’re so darned pricey?

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Like it or not, your business is losing customers. Recent research from McKinsey & Company revealed that only 13 percent of customers surveyed said they were loyal to a single brand. The research found that 87 percent of customers surveyed said they shopped around, and 58 percent had switched to a new brand.

Why do people shop around? What motivates them to abandon the businesses they know and buy products or services from competitors? It’s time that you take a close look at why your business is losing customers – and, what you can do to fix it.

Here are five common reasons why customers leave small businesses … and effective tips you can use to start turning the tide.

1. You’re guilty of poor customer service experience.

Few things can sour a customer experience more quickly than poor customer service. To a customer, your support team is your business. Shauna Geraghty, a clinical psychologist and head of talent at the global customer support innovator TalkDesk revealed on the company’s blog that over 90 percent of customers who are dissatisfied with your customer service experience will — rather than telling you that something is wrong and how you can improve it — just not come back.

So, if you’re not paying attention to your customer-service policies and performance, there’s a good chance that neglect is costing you customers.

This is one reason why some companies, including Comcast, create create support-focused accounts like @comcastcares on Twitter. These accounts are public and are known for helping customers to resolve problems quickly.

Related: How to Lose Customers through your Website

What you can do:

Outline thoughtful, positive customer service practices. Start with an internal audit of the policies that govern your team. Conduct interviews with customer-support managers and representatives.

Assess what company policies have led to customer dissatisfaction. What internal issues are preventing your reps from supporting customers quickly and effectively? Use this data to improve your customer service practices.

Then, bear in mind these three golden rules of customer service:

Respond quickly. Acknowledge when a mistake is made and make it right.

Treat the customer with respect and empathy.

Support your customer support team. Give your customer service team the resources they need to provide your customers with awesome service. This includes the technical infrastructure as well as the autonomy to make choices that will benefit your business and support your customers.

2. Your product or service failed to meet expectations

Disappointed customers are likely to share their disappointment with friends on social media. And angry customers will post angry reviews for other prospective customers to see.

What you can do:

Design and build a quality product or service. Don’t think that marketing magic or any amount of other business trickery is going to make up for a poor product or badly executed service. So, work with a talented product designer.

Test. Build with quality materials. Adapt your service based on customer feedback.

Do whatever it takes to create and deliver a service or product that is worth paying for.

3. You didn’t show the value

valuePrice is what a customer pays. Value is what a customer gets. Sales expert and emotional intelligence coach Liz Wendling pointed out on her blog that customers don’t necessarily choose only “the lowest price or the cheapest in town.” Customer preferences, she said, have nothing to do with price and everything to do with the value you are conveying. When your potential customers tell you it is about the money, wrote Wendling, that is actually customer code for “show me the value.”

This is certainly one reason why Apple continues to dominate when it comes to smartphone profits. In Q4, 2017, Apple captured 87 percent of smartphone industry profits but accounted for only 18 percent of total units sold. Customers, clearly, are buying iPhones because they believe that Apple products deliver more value, despite the higher price.

What you can do:

Identify your unique value proposition. What awesome value do you bring to your customers that other businesses don’t? This is your unique value proposition.

Clearly articulate your unique value proposition on all platforms. Publish the benefits of your product or service on your website home page.

Educate your customer support and sales staffers so that they can speak fluently about the value included in your pricing.

Feature your unique value proposition on the landing page for every offer. (Check out https://www.crowdspring.com/blog/landing-page-guide/this article to learn more about creating effective landing pages.)

Related: 3 Ways To Stop Taking Your Most Loyal Customers For Granted

4. Your business is Inconsistent

In business, and in life, consistency breeds trust. Things that are consistent can be relied upon. And, things that can be relied upon don’t need to be worried about. Inconsistent branding, including using your company’s name or logo differently on your own site and on social networks, plus inconsistent quality or service, all have the potential to drive customers away.

United Airlines learned this lesson the hard way when young women wearing casual wear were not permitted to board a flight unless they changed out of Spandex leggings. Yet any traveler is going to see many, many women at the airport wearing leggings. And there’ was no previous record of United barring others from flying for wearing leggings. That’s why this particular decision created a social media firestorm and lots of confusion.

What you can do:

Deliver an experience customers can rely on. This starts with you and your employees.

Educate all of your employees about what a good customer experience should look like.

Create a branding guide to establish uniform branding guidelines and share it with your team.

Hold your employees accountable for delivering a consistently positive customer experience.

Create strong customer interaction policies. Whatever your policies are, make sure that they will serve your customers well before you implement them. Then stick with them! Be consistent.

5. Your sales tactics are out-of-date.

Aggressive sales techniques are more likely to drive customers away than lead to positive results. Leslie Ye, for HubSpot, wrote that the old sales playbook — dragging prospects through a sales process and strong-arming them into a purchase — worked only because there was no better way for buyers to buy.

If your sales techniques focus on manipulating or coercing a sale, your business is actively chasing customers away.

What you can do:

Employ value-based selling techniques. Take the time to learn what your customer actually needs. Then offer value-based solutions that address those needs. Show how your product benefits the customer and allow them to decide if it’s the right fit for them.

Build relationships with your customers. If you’re trying to sell with every single customer interaction, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, focus on establishing trust with your prospective customers.

Have honest interactions and provide value through useful content and entertaining social media engagement. Then, when a customer needs the product or service you provide, he or she will turn to you, a trusted resource.

The key to growing a business is to maintain the customers you already have while acquiring new ones. So, stop leaking customers. The success of your business depends is at stake.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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